ELYRIA — They were high school sweethearts married for 65 years.
They met in church as teenagers and eventually raised a family in Avon. Then, in 2008, Robert Shaw took a step his attorney says was purely out of love. He smothered his 84-year-old wife, Virginia, with a pillow or blanket.
He called 911 soon afterward and told police he killed his wife “to put her out of her misery” because she had been in and out of the hospital with various medical problems.
Virginia Shaw died Nov. 13, 2008, at the Shakespeare Lane home she shared with her husband. On Tuesday, more than five years later, Robert Shaw pleaded guilty to a felony charge in her death that will send the elderly man to prison for four years.
Shaw, 90, shuffled his way into a Lorain County Common Pleas courtroom Tuesday afternoon accompanied by his two daughters and a son-in-law. During the quick hearing before Judge Mark Betleski, the nonagenarian answered in quick responses of “yes, sir” to acknowledge he knew what he was doing by pleading guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter.
Originally indicted for murder, aggravated murder and felonious assault, a plea deal was reached with prosecutors to drop three of the four charges and have Shaw plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
The four-year sentence also was agreed upon before Tuesday.
Betleski said Shaw would be eligible to apply for judicial release six months after he is formally sentenced. He could not speculate on whether Shaw would be released, but said his case was unusual.
“We don’t get too many defendants your age, and especially ones not involved in criminal activity in their past,” he said.
Shaw, who has had his own medical issues, has been free on bond while awaiting the outcome of the case. He will be formally sentenced at a later date.
Kenneth Lieux, Shaw’s attorney, said the situation has been hard on the family, but Shaw’s daughters have found peace.
“They are dealing with it the best way they can,” he said. “His daughters have been understanding and supportive of their dad from the beginning while recognizing they lost their mother. They have forgiven him.”
Lieux said “mercy killings” are crimes under Ohio law.
“They were real, true soul mates in every sense of the word,” he said about the Shaws. “They reached a point in life where they both had physical aliments and health problems — her more so than him. He made a decision he will have to live with. But it was difficult for him.”